Japan should take a correct attitude toward its history and strengthen relations with China, Tsuneo Watanabe, chairman and editor-in-chief of Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun, said in a recent interview with Xinhua.
Watanabe, 81, said he was happy that the Chinese version of a history book on the Sino-Japanese War seven decades ago was published by Xinhua Publishing House in China, adding that it is important for Japan to approach its war history in a serious manner.
So far, a total of 95,000 copies of the book, "From Marco Polo Bridge to Pearl Harbor: Who was responsible," have been sold in Japan, he said.
"On issues such as war responsibilities and the Yasukuni Shrine, Japan's main media have already reached an important consensus," Watanabe said.
The book, whose Chinese language version contains 350,000 characters, was written by journalists of the War Responsibility Reexamination Committee set up by the Yomiuri Shimbun after 14 months of research and interviews starting in 2005.
Watanabe said the book also includes more than 100 photos taken by Yomiuri Shimbun photographers during the war, with most of them first published in China. They are of instructive significance in terms of telling the Japanese people the true nature of the war, as most of them have no wartime experience.
As for the issue of the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead including 14 class-A war criminals, Watanabe said Japanese leaders' frequent visits to the shrine are "an absolutely intolerable matter."
"From now on, whoever takes up the post of prime minister should make a promise not to visit the Yasukuni Shrine," he added.
Watanabe said most war-related exhibitions and items exhibited in the Yasukuni Shrine's War Memorial Museum, or Yushukan, are designed to distort the nature of Japan's war of aggression, and are meant to make people believe that it was a war for survival and self-defense.
"Yushukan is a poisonous place that should be abolished," he said.
The China-Japan relations were at the lowest point over the past years because of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to Yasukuni Shrine.
Watanabe said a worsening relationship between Japan and China is harmful not only to both countries, but also to Asia as a whole.
"It is very dangerous for the Japanese people to lose their moral judgement," he said. "The Japanese should be allowed to know how the war broke out and what crimes the war criminals committed, " Watanabe said.
Many Japanese, including quite a few politicians, are not clear about the aggressiveness and atrocities of the war, Watanabe said.
Watanabe, who was forced to become "one of the Imperial Japanese Army's last group of privates," said he knows the brutality of the army.
"In order to let them (the Japanese people) know the extreme atrocities of the war, it is of great significance to publish this book," he said.
Japan should also "investigate, determine" and publish some books on the miserable sufferings of people in some Asian countries, including China, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and India, during the war, Watanabe said.
On the relations between Japan and China, he said the two neighbors should strengthen ties in economy and security.
"Therefore, books such as 'From Marco Polo Bridge to Pearl Harbor: Who was responsible' should be published continuously," he said, explaining that it is of great importance in liquidating the war history.
The book "can be viewed as the first step Yomiuri Shimbun has taken to pinpoint Japan's war responsibilities," said Bu Ping, director of the Institute of Modern Chinese History of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in a recent forum on the book's publication.
Bu said "it must have taken a lot of courage for Yomiuri Shimbun to start the project that transcended narrow-minded nationalism at a time when neo-nationalism in Japan is rising and its politics is sliding to the right."
Meanwhile, some Chinese scholars said the research team has not delved deep enough and their findings are limited and at times erroneous.
For instance, the book largely lays the war responsibilities on some individuals, which is neither integrated nor scientific, and the Chinese cannot agree with the book's conclusion on the number of Chinese civilians and soldiers killed in the Nanjing Massacre.
This year is the 70th anniversary of the start of the War of Resistance Against Japan and the Nanjing Massacre.
According to China's official records, some 35 million Chinese died in the eight-year war, including 31.2 million civilians.
China has long complained that the Japanese government has failed to properly recognize its responsibility for the war and to make a formal apology.
Also, some reports said the book did not mention the notoriously sexual exploitation of "comfort women" by the Japanese military during World War II.
Watanabe, editor-in-chief of Yomiuri Shimbun, said he had noted Chinese readers' criticism that the book is scant in information when it comes to documenting Japan's brutal war crimes in foreign countries.
An estimated 200,000 women were forced to serve as sex slaves, known as comfort women, for the Japanese troops during the war, and most of them came from countries that suffered Japanese aggression at that time.
However, many Japanese politicians have constantly denied the crime which has been widely criticized by Asian countries.
On Monday, in a move viewed as a public censure of Japan, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill demanding Japan's apology over the issue of "comfort women."
The resolution, which was passed by the full House without objection, urged the Japanese government to formally acknowledge and accept responsibility for the issue.